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Dr. Robert Grise Complete Biography

Dr. Robert Newman Grise’s parents were Presley McCorkle (P.M.) Grise (November 11, 1894-May 28, 1981) from Dallam’s Creek in Logan County, Kentucky, and Stella Louise Cotton (January 24, 1903-June 3, 2007) from Nelson County, Kentucky, near the village of Van Buren, right across the county line in Anderson County, which is now under Taylorsville Lake.

Dr. P.M. Grise came from a farming family and his early education through the eighth grade was in a rural one-room school. He joined the National Guard in Logan County in 1916 and was called to active service in the army corps of engineers in 1917 during World War I. He was sent to France to help build an airplane hangar. After the armistice on November 11, 1918, he served in the American army occupation force in Germany until 1919, when he was honorably discharged. When he returned home he tried a factory job in Detroit, working as a timekeeper for Ford, but then decided to come back to Kentucky to become a teacher.

He met Stella Cotton at Western Kentucky State Normal School and Teachers College in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and they were married on June 20, 1922, at the home of Dr. P.M. Grise’s brother, Dr. Finley C. Grise, who was a Latin professor at Western. While at Western, Dr. P.M. Grise was on the debate team, the president of the English club, and the associate editor of the school newspaper. Dr. P.M. Grise received an A.B. degree in English and a minor in Latin from Western, and Mrs. Grise received an A.B. degree in Latin with a minor in elementary education. While attending Western the couple taught in one-room schools in Logan, Spencer, and Warren Counties and graduated in 1926.

After graduation, Dr. P.M. Grise worked as an English and math teacher, basketball coach, and principal at Oakland High School in Warren County. Mrs. Grise also taught at the high school for two years.

Dr. P.M. Grise attended George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received a M.A. degree in English in the spring of 1930. On February 14, 1929, the couple had their first child, William Presley Grise in Nashville.

Dr. P.M. Grise then heard of a teaching job in Richmond. Starting in the summer of 1930, he taught English at the newly reestablished Model High School, which was a part of Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College. In June 1939, he earned his Ph.D. in English education from the University of Kentucky; he then moved from Model to the college English department. Dr. P.M Grise became Head of the English Department and Chairman of the Division of Literature and Languages in 1955, a position he held until his retirement in May of 1965. The Grise Room Auditorium, on the ground floor of the Bert Combs building on Eastern’s campus, was named for Dr. P.M. Grise upon his retirement in honor of his service and dedication to the college. Stella received her M.A. in elementary education at Eastern in the early 1950's and began teaching second grade at Athens Elementary School in Fayette County, where she taught for 16 years until her retirement.

Robert Newman Grise was born on June 2, 1930, at his parents’ home on Oak St. in Richmond. His younger brother, Thomas Mack Grise was born on October 20, 1931. Dr. Grise grew up on Sunset Ave., where his family had a garden, a cow, some chickens, and a pony. In 1935 he was enrolled in the kindergarten class at the Model Training School in the Cammack Building on Eastern’s campus. Growing up during the Great Depression, he and his brothers sold chickens, eggs, and garden vegetables. Dr. Grise delivered the Louisville Courier Journal and the Richmond Daily Register as a teenager from 1943 through 1948.

Dr. Grise attended Model High School from 1944 to 1948 in the old University Building on Eastern’s campus. The school was semi-merged with Madison High School from 1940 through 1961 and was known as Madison-Model, which is the school name listed on his diploma. The two schools combined sports teams, graduation ceremonies, and some classes. While in school, Dr. Grise wrote feature articles for the school newspaper, the Model Hi-Lites.

Dr. Grise went on to attend Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College starting in the summer of 1948. He had a double first major English and art and occasionally contributed to the school newspaper, the Eastern Progress. During his time at Eastern, the school dropped the “Teachers” from its name in 1949. In 1950, Dr. Grise met Martha Katherine Spurlin when her family moved from Red House to Richmond and she began attending First Methodist Church where the Grise family was members. The couple soon began dating. Miss Spurlin’s family was deeply rooted in Madison County, having three ancestors at the Boonesborough pioneer settlement. Dr. Grise received his B.A. in English and art from Eastern in the spring of 1952.

On August 14, 1952, Dr. Grise was drafted into the army medical corps during the Korean War. After basic training at Camp Pickett, Virginia, he was sent to the US Army Field Medical Service School at Fort Sam Houston outside of San Antonio, Texas, where he was trained as an occupational therapy technician. He then served as an occupational therapy technician at Camp Atterberry, Indiana, working with mental patients returning from the Korean War. His last assignment in the army was working as the director of a publication section at the Ireland Post Hospital at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, where he kept the hospital supplied with medical forms and informational materials.

Dr. Grise was honorably discharged from the army on August 14, 1954. He and Martha married on August 22, 1954, at the First Methodist Church in Richmond. After his time in the service, Dr. Grise went on to pursue a M.A. in English education at Eastern, completing the degree in the spring of 1955.

He joined the faculty of Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Kentucky, in the fall of 1955, where he taught English and teacher education while working on his doctorate in educational administration at Indiana University and later at the University of Kentucky. On April 25, 1956, the couple had their first child, Robert Owen Grise, born at the Daviess County Hospital in Owensboro. From 1958 to 1960 Dr. Grise was on leave while working on his degree at UK. During this time he was assistant editor of the Bulletin of the Bureau of School Service at UK. On May 23, 1959, the couple had their second child, David Presley Grise in Richmond at the old Pattie A. Clay Hospital on Glyndon Avenue. Dr. Grise served on the faculty at Kentucky Wesleyan through the summer of 1963. Martha earned her B.A. degree in English from Kentucky Wesleyan in May of 1963.

Dr. Grise then got the opportunity to teach at his Alma Mater. He began teaching at Eastern Kentucky State College in the fall of 1963 and received his Ed.D. in educational administration from UK in December 1963. His dissertation, “Professional and Academic Preparation of Public High School Teachers of English in Kentucky” was published by the University of Kentucky Bureau of School Service. At Eastern, he taught in the education department, teaching foundations of education courses rather than methods courses. He taught undergraduate introduction to education courses, and also educational psychology, philosophy of education, research in education, history of education, and sociology of education on the graduate level. He was faculty co-sponsor of a graduating class in the 1960s and served for 19 years as the curator of the Granny Richardson Springs One-Room School on Eastern’s campus. He took care of the one-room school and gave history lessons to visiting elementary school students. He was on the faculty along with his father from 1963-65. Martha earned her M.A. in English from Eastern in August of 1967 and her Ph.D. in English from UK in August of 1979. She joined her husband on the faculty at EKU as a full-time professor in 1967 and taught in the English department until 1997, teaching with her husband for 28 years. Dr. Robert Grise taught at Eastern for 32 until his retirement in the spring of 1995.

Dr. Grise’s eldest son Robert Owen taught guitar part-time at Eastern. On April 11, 1981, he married Betsy Tipton. They had two children, Elizabeth Leigh, born on March 27, 1984, and Robert (Robbie) Thomas, born on April 8, 1986. Both attended EKU as undergraduates. After divorcing, Robert Owen married Debra Foreman on March 13, 2004. Robbie married Tara Hoffert on January 30, 2010 and Elizabeth married Geof Koetsch on April 30, 2010.

David Presley occasionally taught pre-law classes at EKU. He married Lisa Thompson on May 22, 1982. They had two girls, Emily born on August 14, 1986, and Abigail born on October 15, 1989. After divorcing, David married Gina Underwood on June 5, 2004.

Dr. Grise has been active in the Richmond community. He has attended the First Methodist of Church of Richmond since he was a child, having joined the congregation in 1941. In the mid-1960s the denomination changed its name to the First United Methodist Church. Dr. Grise served for many years on the church official board; he served for eight years on the board of the church’s retreat center in Western Kentucky; he was on the Wesley Foundation board at EKU for eight years, and was a Sunday School teacher for a number of years. He was a member of the professional education association Phi Delta Kappa for over 40 years, from the time he was a graduate student through his time on the faculty at EKU, and was also a member of the Kentucky-Tennessee Chapter of the American Studies Association. He is also a longtime member of the Madison County Historical Society.

Dr. Grise has a keen interest in telephone history and in collecting old telephones. He owns over 30 antique telephones, dating back to the 1890s. His favorite telephone is an old 1894 two-box wood wall telephone made by the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Company, a US manufacturer. The top box has the bell, the magneto-generator that you crank, and the induction coil. The bottom box houses the batteries. In between there is a metal arm with the hook-switch and receiver and the mouthpiece transmitter on the front. Dr. Grise has also taught occasional telephone history demonstration lessons at area elementary schools. He has operated and maintained a small local battery telephone system that connects 20 buildings at the United Methodist Retreat Center in Grayson County, Kentucky since 1955. He is a member of two international associations of telephone collectors, the Antique Telephone Collectors Association, Inc., and the Telephone Collectors International, Inc.

Dr. Grise is also interested in traveling and art. He and his wife have been to over 40 countries in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa. He enjoys painting landscapes and historic places, and he and his wife recently took a trip to Giverny, France, where they studied impressionist painting and photography.